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Independence Day ranks highest for average daily crash deaths

On average, more people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes on Independence Day than any other day of the year, according to an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analysis of the five most recent years of available fatal crash data.

fhwaEach year on July 4, an average of 118.4 lives were lost in crashes, making it the most consistently deadly day of the year across the five-year study period. That’s 28 more deaths than the overall average daily toll from 2010 to 2014. New Year’s Day follows closely in second place with an average of 118.2 deaths.

IIHS research has found that motorcycles and alcohol are both big contributors to the Fourth of July toll. Independence Day is by far the deadliest for motorcyclists, with an average of 26 deaths. The daily average motorcyclist deaths during the study period was 12.1.

Alcohol is a factor in crash deaths on both July 4 and Jan. 1. Forty-seven percent of the deaths on July 4, and 62 percent on Jan. 1 involved at least one driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08. The average across all days in the five years was 35 percent for deaths in crashes involving alcohol.

“Traveling on a major holiday is risky for many reasons,” said Chuck Farmer, IIHS vice president for research and statistical services. “In general, there are more people on the roads, and drivers may be navigating areas beyond their regular commuting routes. There’s a high incidence of alcohol use, which sharply raises the risk of crashing.”

He added that, for motorcyclists, wearing a regulation helmet is always a good choice even in states where they aren’t required.

“While some holidays are associated with more highway deaths, motor vehicle crashes exact a huge toll every single day of the year,” Farmer added. On average, crashes claimed the lives of slightly more than 90 people each day during 2010 to 2014.

The data used in the analysis is from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System, an annual census of fatal crashes on U.S. roads.

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